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Tommy Newsom passed away from aggressive liver cancer yesterday evening around 6pm.

He was 78.

He was at home outside of Norfolk, VA, and his wife Pat was at his side. Funeral services are pending.

However, a celebration of his life and music is being planned, most likely to take place in NYC sometime in the near future.

Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

R.I.P. Tommy
 

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Tommy was an incredible, underrated talent. He was known to the outside world as the dumb, straight faced assistant director of Carson's Tonight Show band, but to many of us, was a fantastic lead alto player, arranger, woodwind specialist and many other things. He will be missed.
 

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Sad news. A wonderful player.....much hipper than the brown suit jokes of J Carson.
 

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Sad news. I remember Tommy from the Tonight Show when I was a kid. RIP Tommy.
 

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Mr. Excitement passed away? Sad news. Tommy was a very good musician and had a great poker face.
 

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I remember as a kid how that at the end of a commercial brake, you could hear the NBC Orchestra finishing one of those great pieces. And I remembered that many times I would hear that tenor sax running lick after lick among all those horns. And would think to myself, that's Newsom up there playing like that. This may have been when I first decided I wanted to play the saxophone.

He will be missed.

 

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Enviroguy said:
I remember as a kid how that at the end of a commercial brake, you could hear the NBC Orchestra finishing one of those great pieces. And I remembered that many times I would hear that tenor sax running lick after lick among all those horns.
I thought he played alto in the Tonight Show Band and Pete Christlieb and Ernie Watts were the tenor players.

I met Tommy once at a rehearsal at NBC studios. After the rehearsal, the band bus I was on drove past him and another musician as they were walking along the street. Everybody (kids) waved at him and he had a sheepish smile on his face. I asked my colleague, the band teacher who seemed to know everybody, why they were walking and he said they were on their way to a popular musician's watering hole...hence the sheepish grin to a bus full of kids.
 

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I met Tommy at the LA Jazz Classic in the early 1990s. Our 8-piece band had Joe DeWeese adaptations of Newsom's "Flying Home" and "Air Mail Special" charts that he'd written for the Tonight Show band. I told him about them, and he wondered how it could be done with only eight pieces. So he came to hear us and said he was impressed. He was a quiet and nice man and a fine musician.
 

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I don't think I ever saw him play anything but alto on the Tonight Show. He was a fantastic arranger, and was responsible for much of what the orchestra played on Johnny's show.
 

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Morry said:
I don't think I ever saw him play anything but alto on the Tonight Show. He was a fantastic arranger, and was responsible for much of what the orchestra played on Johnny's show.
Ditto. Alto seulement.

I loved whenever Johnny called on him with a long question, only to be answered with: "Excuse me, can you repeat the question?"
 

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My recollection is that he played tenor and then went to alto later.

In 1966 I attended a clinic he gave in Pampa Texas at a stage band festival. He was playing tenor with a small group including Doc Severinson, Bob Haggard, Johnny Rosengarden, and I think Ross Tomkins.

A nice and unpretentious guy.
 

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He was a perfect fall guy for Carson's jokes, he had a wonderful sense of humor.
Rip Tommy Newsom

[I never saw him play tenor on the show, just alto and clarinet.]

[FWIW, Ernie Watts filled in/subbed for several years before he became a regular.]
 

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One night I was watching the Tonight Show and Carson did somthing I only saw once and never agian.

He invited Tommy over from the band to the guest chair and he came over with his sax and they talked a while and then Carson asked him if he would like to play somthing.

So all by himself he play one of the old standards and it was great.

I will never forget that moment.

What a great player.
 

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His tenor tone was wonderful. I was thinking about his playing just the other day. Seemed like a wonderful guy.
 
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